There are 27 oil platforms from Santa Barbara down to Orange County, most constructed in the 1960s and 70s. And pretty soon, there will be one less.
Santa Barbara's Platform Holly will be decommissioned and removed from its ocean home. The watery oil producer made headlines in 2015 when erosion in a pipeline lead to the disastrous Refugio Beach oil spill.
What does this mean for Santa Barbara's coastal environment and California's offshore drilling? Take Two's A Martinez spoke with Linda Krop, Chief Counsel for the Environmental Defense Center.
The environmental impact
The state will develop an decommissioning plan and that will be available for public review. They will look at different options. The last platforms that were removed in our region were removed about 20 years ago. And the technology has really advanced since then.
This platform is in relatively shallow waters and there's new technology so, we believe it can be removed with minimal impact. You're going to have some impact. You're going to be using heavy machinery to remove the platform so you're going to have some short term impacts. But in the long term, the benefits to the environment are going to be significant.
Overseas, they have more experience with platform decommissioning– much more than in the United States. So, we don't have the latest information, but we will learn that in the review process.
From "rigs to reefs"?
Well, the science is not clear on that. In fact, there was a scientific report prepared by the University of California several years ago that looked at our region and the natural reef system that we have here, and concluded that platforms do not provide any habitat. So, our preference is that the platform be removed.
They're not natural, they are surrounded by piles and piles of toxic debris that has fallen overboard from the platforms. There are 4 platforms removed in 1996 offshore Summerland. Chevron left behind these huge piles of debris mounds that are filled with all sorts of toxic materials.
Our goal, from an environmental standpoint, is to remove them completely and restore the environment. But also, there's a safety consideration. If you leave buried platform structures that people can't see on the surface anymore, you definitely have a risk that someone is going to tangle their anchor, or fishing gear or whatever, and that would be a huge safety problem.
Quotes edited for clarity.